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[Achtung! Cthulhu] Zero Point Part 1: Three Kings
Gaz Bowerbank reviews the World War II horror scenario for Savage Worlds from Modiphius.
I recently received a copy of the first product for Achtung! Cthulhu, Three Kings – the first in a series of standalone adventure supplements for the globe-spanning Zero Point campaign. The premised of behind the enemy lines action sounds great and I’m promised two-fisted wartime roleplaying packed full of fiendish Nazis and terrifying ancient mysteries; a standalone multi-episode adventure for hours of play! So what’s in the product?
Look and Feel
The book is pretty at first sight and comes with a printer-friendly version. The maps, handouts and art look very good and are consistent and the front cover in particular is very evocative of the setting. There are supplemental notes and call-out boxes “taped” or “paper clipped” over the main text of pages, which looks cool enough, and are largely useful. From a style point of view, it definitely evokes that right kind of atmosphere and looks pretty.
Less so are the magazine style quotes (block quotes of a piece of the text) that take up a chunk of the already packed page real estate and sometime refer to text from a different page – they felt a bit too much like padding and got in the way of reading the main text – we could happily lose them and add more real content. Also, some of the letters in words appear to be below the line of others in my pdf version which irked me when reading, but I’m sure that can be fixed fairly easily.
In general the writing is fairly clear, although the author mixes and matches conventions, sometimes using the German word for something (usually a military unit or rank), sometimes the English, and sometimes both. While I can see the author was probably going for some authenticity, the lack of consistent approach made the reading journey a little more jarring than it needs to be. Again, its relatively straightforward to fix this in future releases.
Some of the game statistics are located within the text, but other key items are at the end. I’d have probably gone for having all statistics in the Appendix, but that’s just personal preference. You’ve got stats for all your adversaries, so job done there.
While broadly good, there are some questions I’d raise about the Savage Worlds rules and their application – notably things like the pre-gen characters being built with different levels of points, and I’m unsure about employing Stealth rolls to avoid being spotted while parachuting, or at one point a Notice roll is required, otherwise a worthwhile encounter is skipped entirely. Obviously GMs can choose to just have the encounter anyway, and a savvy GM is not going to be phased by other oddities in the adventure, but there is nothing particularly outstanding or new either.
The adventure itself feels a little lean. Although there are several acts and episodes, there are really only a couple of major scenes and a small number of battles. The scenario is presented in a loose fashion with the broad strokes laid out, but the actual detail left to individual GMs to sort out. I’m unsure why the characters are permitted to determine their landing point initially, as this only leads to the adventure having to include “if they’re here then X, if there then Y” to no noticeable dramatic effect. For the page count, I’d like to see more meat on the bone personally, but that may well start to come as more and more adventures come out.
As promised there are Nazis, and some are indeed fiendish. I think on the whole it again plays to the strengths of the product in general (in terms of feeling right), however I reckon more can be done in terms of game-able content. Its only the first of the line though, and stand alone though, so one could argue there’s only so much you want to include initially.
Three Kings is a sexy looking adventure, the maps, handouts and presentation of the pages are high quality. There’s not an immense amount of adventure in it and some of the decisions are a bit quirky, so for future I’d want to see more bang for buck. It is a self contained one shot though, if you’re not up on your history and lingo for WWII, your Photoshop skills aren’t the best and you want a straightforward scenario with lots of flavour that looks pretty, has buzzwords and pre-gens, then it could well be for you.